Although the sport of handball was
invented in Ireland several centuries ago, and Irish players scattered across
the globe in the nineteenth century, taking the game with them to other
continents and countries, the possibility of international competition did not
arise until 1956.
In that year, the President of the
Irish Handball Council, the Very Rev. Canon Carroll, was visiting the U.S. and
brought up the possibility with the AAU handball President, Charles J.
O’Connell. Two players from America,
Harry Hyde and Tom Ginty, both with Irish roots, were chosen to cross the pond
for a 1957 exhibition. In fact, Hyde’s
son, Bob, also made the trip. A total of
eight matches were played in a ten day period in September, 1957, all in
different locations in Ireland, and the results were an even split. Harry Hyde returned for further competition
in 1958, but played only one winning match before the planned series did not
In 1960, the Irish council heard
from players in Australia who proposed that Irish players come to Australia for
a series of matches at Easter, 1962.
They also proposed that Irish, Australian, and American players meet for
competition in the U. S. in 1964. The
1962 event never came to pass, but the idea lingered, with hopes for 1964 still
Indeed, players from five countries—Australia,
Canada, Ireland, Mexico and the U.S.-- met for the first “World” event in the
World Fair year of 1964 in New York City at the NYAC. This was a clear turning point, as all
involved needed to agree upon common rules to follow, and the Irish players
encountered their first 40 x 20 “small” courts.
Jimmy Jacobs won the singles round robin while John Sloan and Phil Elbert won the doubles. The U.S. was
undefeated in 8 matches, with Canada taking a play-off with Mexico for second
The next advancement took place in
1967 when the U. S. rules were agreed to as the unified rules for international
competition and Ireland was chosen for the 1970 World event. Canada were hosts in 1967 where Joey Maher (Ireland) but playing for Canada beat Carl Obert (USA) in the Invitational Singles Championship and the Obert Brothers, Carl and Rudy beat Harry Capperman and Mickey Unroth (Canada) in the Doubles. In the Open Singles World Championship, Stuffy Singer USA beat Steve August USA while in Open Doubles S. Garden and P. Haber USA beat Pantages and Kristopatis USA.
The Irish council members took their charge
seriously, with significant fund-raising efforts in 1968 resulting in the
construction of a glass showcase court in 1969 in Croke Park. The GAA was highly instrumental in helping
with the funding for this court. Top
players from the same five countries at the 1964 World event converged on Croke
Park in October, 1970. Pat Kirby of the
U.S. defeated all comers in singles, with Ireland’s Joe Maher earning second
place. Ireland’s Richie Lyng and Seamus
Buggy went undefeated in doubles to win that crown, with Bob Wilson and Mel
Brown of Canada taking second place.
This 1970 competition revealed that the showcase court’s design helped
make the game much more readily viewed and appreciated by courtside spectators
as well as a TV audience.
spite of the progress made since 1956, the international handball scene went
dormant after 1970 until 1984. That
year, in honor of the centennial celebration of the Irish Handball Council,
Dublin and Clare hosted a World Tournament featuring play on the 60 X 30 court
as well as the 40 X 20, in both singles and doubles.
hosted the 1986 event, in Kelowna, British Columbia. This was the first World event to which
junior and women players were invited.
Joseph Lynch convened the leaders of the various countries represented
and reinvigorated efforts to create a functioning governance structure. Vern Roberts (USA) beat Ducksy Walsh (Ireland) in the Men's Invitational event.
from six countries made the trek to Melbourne, Australia, for the 1988
tournament. This event continued the opportunity
for women players to be involved, so the ongoing growth and popularity curve of
the World event remained vigorous.
Joseph Lynch and Caimin Jones served the World Handball Council as
President and Secretary. Naty Alvarado
won the Invitational event, with Peter McAuley of Ireland taking second. Kathleen Beddard of Canada won the Women’s title
with Sue Carey of Ireland taking second.
In Doubles Joe Nendler/Poncho Monreal of the USA defeated John
Fleming/Pat Cleary of Ireland. In
Women’s Doubles Lisa Fraser/Kathleen Beddard of Canada took the crown with Sue
Carey/Bridget Mythen from Ireland taking second place.
In 1991, Joe Lynch notified the
handball world that he would be resigning his position as National Secretary. Joe had been highly instrumental in endeavoring to get International Handball on a sound footing.
Lorcan O’Rourke assumed the position of
General Secretary of Irish handball and was present at the 1991 World event which
took place in Phoenix, Arizona. This
tournament saw 558 entries, a new and impressive record for entrants. Players from Britain joined players from
Japan, Australia, Ireland, Mexico, and the U.S.
Poncho Monreal of Mexico defeated Canada’s Danny Bell for the
Invitational title, while Anna Engele of the US won the Women’s Invitational
crown in a tie breaker over Canada’s Diane Vallee. The Invitational Doubles saw Doug Glatt and
Rod Prince of the US defeat Jeff Wilson/Roberto Meneses of Canada.
In the Women's Invitational Doubles: Anna Engele and Beth Rowley of the US won a
close match over Canada’s Lisa Fraser and Lavonah Muloin.
June of 1991, Canada’s Bob Pruden took office as President of the World
Council, and held this position until 1997, when Caimin Jones of Ireland
The 1994 event added a new
country—France—to the other national teams that met in Dublin for the eighth
international showcase of handball. Once
again, the venues were located in Dublin and Clare, with 41 classes of events
for Open, age-group, skill groups, juniors and women. Nearly 1,000 players from around the world
made the commitment to play in this impressive event. The Invitational results showed Dave Chapman
(USA) winning against Ducksy Walsh (Ire.).
In the Women's open: Lisa Fraser (Can.) prevailed over Anna Engele (USA). In the Men’s Invitational doubles: John Bike/Randy Morones (USA) handled Tom Sheridan/Egin Jensen (Ire). The Women's Invitational Doubles title went to Lisa Gilmore/Jessica
Gawley (Can.) over Fiona Shannon/Sibeal McKenna (Ire.).
Winnipeg, Canada, hosted the World
event in 1997. Americans dominated the four-wall event, with John Bike
defeating a young but promising David Chapman in the Open Final (This was the first occasion that multiple entries were allowed in the main events) Likewise, Anna Engele (USA) took the women’s title with Canada’s Lisa
Fraser claiming runner up. In Open
doubles: John Bike and David Chapman (USA) prevailed over Danny Bell and Merv Deckert of Canada.
For Women's Open Doubles Lisa Fraser and Jessica Gawley from Canada won over LeaAnn
Martin and Allison Roberts of the USA. In
One-Wall play, Americans prevailed, with Dave Rojas winning over Eddie Maisonet
in singles. For the Women's Open: Sydell
Smith of the U.S. took top honors with Barbara Canton taking second. In Open doubles, Tony Roberts/Dave Rojas of
the U.S. defeated Maisonet/Paul Williams also from the U.S. In Women's Open doubles: Americans continued
their winning ways with Smith/Karen McConney
downing Canton/Dori Ten, also of the U.S.
intriguing developments took place elsewhere as well, with pelota players from
Spain giving one-wall handball a try in Ireland (originally tried in 1932), and
Irish players getting involved with handball in Belgium and Finland. Handball was also beginning to take off in
Wales and London, using the Belgian game played in a squash court.
Crystal continued its support for the game by sponsoring the 2000 Tournament
held in Chicago, which boasted competition in more than 70 classes in four-wall
and one-wall. The World Handball council
was headed by President: Caimin Jones,
President: Paul Williams, and
Secretary/Treasurer: Pat Brennan. In one-wall competition, Cesar Sala (U.S.)
won over Joe Kaplan (U.S.). In the Women's open: Karen McConney (USA) defeated
Dori Ten (USA). For the Men’s Open
doubles: Tony Roberts and Dave Rojas (USA) won over Paul Williams and Eddie Maisonet
(USA). In Women's Open Doubles, Dori Ten and Barbara Canton-Jackson (USA)
prevailed over Karen McConney and Sydell Smith (USA). In 4-Wall Open: David Chapman (USA) handled John Bike
(USA). In the Women's Open: Priscilla Shumate (USA) played a tough match to win
over Anna Christoff (USA). In Open
doubles: David Chapman and Danny Bell (US/CAN) combined to take the honors against
John Bike and Kendell Lewis (USA). In Women's Open Doubles: Anna Christoff and LeaAnn Martin (USA) won against Lisa Gilmore and Jessica
Ireland hosted the 2003 event, with
some 1,200 players from 13 countries competing in 76 events, all new records
for the increasingly popular event.
Caimin Jones concluded his term as President and Paul Williams of the US was elected President. Canada’s Pat Brennan moved to VP and Con Moore, Ireland was elected secretary/treasurer. Ireland’s Paul
Brady started a run of four consecutive World Four Wall titles with a win over
Tony Healy, also from Eire. Fiona
Shannon continued Ireland’s winning ways with her victory over Canada’s Lisa
Fraser. In doubles, however, the
Canadians returned the favor as Fraser partnered with Jessica Gawley to take
down Shannon and Sibeal McKenna. Americans
dominated the One Wall competition, as Herman Mendez nailed a win over Tony
Roberts in singles, with Anna Calderon matching his win with her own against
Lian Chin. In doubles. Mendez partnered
with Willie Polanco to beat Roberts and Dave Rojas, while Calderon teamed with
Melody Ruiz to capture a win over Chin and Na Liu.
The 2006 event landed in Edmonton,
Alberta, Canada. The World Handball
Council was lead by Paul Williams of New York as President, with Canada’s Pat
Brennan as Vice President, and Con Moore of Ireland as Secretary-Treasurer. In One-Wall Open Singles: Cesar Sala
prevailed over Joe Kaplan (USA), while Karen McConney (USA) outlasted Dori Ten
(USA). In Open Doubles: Tony Roberts/Dave Rojas (USA) defeated Paul Williams/Eddie
Maisonet (USA). For the Women's Open Doubles:
Dori Ten/Barbara Canton-Jackson (USA) thwarted Karen McConney/Sydell Smith
(USA). In Four-Wall Open Singles, Paul
Brady (Ire.) overcame Tony Healy (Ire.) and Fiona Shannon (Ire.) secured a win
over Anna Christoff (U.S.) in the Women’s Open Singles. In Open Doubles: Tony Healy/Eoin Kennedy
(Ire.) won a marathon match against Paul Brady/Michael Finnegan
(Ire.). In Women's open doubles, the host country
found the winning combination when Lisa Gilmore/Jessica Gawley (Can.) were
victorious over Fiona Shannon/Sibeal McKenna (Ire.).
Portland, Oregon, hosted the 2009
World Tournament, with the Multnomah Athletic Club and the Sunset Athletic club
serving as the key venues. Once again,
1,000 players convened to celebrate the game they love. Pat Brennan assumed the position of WHC
President, with con Moore as VP and Vern Roberts serving as
secretary-treasurer. Paul Brady
continued to lead the way in Four Wall singles by winning a tough match against
American Allan Garner. Irishmen Eoin
Kennedy and Michael Finnegan secured a victory over their countrymen Robert
McCarthy and Brian Carroll in doubles.
Ireland’s Fiona Shannon won against Aisling Reilly. Shannon continued her dominance with a
doubles win, teaming with Sibeal Gallagher over Maria Daly and Aisling Reilly
in an all-Irish final. In One Wall play,
John Rookie Wright of the US showed his mastery with a win over fellow American
Giovanni Vasquez. Americans also
dominated the doubles, with Willie Polanco and Tony Roberts defeating Andre
Calle and Victor LoPierre. The same held
true in Women’s play, with Karen McConney beating Brenda Pares DuBose, who then
turned it around in doubles, with her partner Bernice Torres prevailing over
McConney and Michelle Melendez
Several venues served to accommodate
2,000 players in October of 2012 in Dublin, with Ireland’s largest collection
of four-wall and one-wall courts built for the occasion at Citywest. The changing of the guard in WHC governance
went on apace as Con Moore, Ireland was elected president, with Mike Driscoll USA taking
over as VP, and Mike Steele USA as secretary-treasurer. In the Four Wall handball action, Ireland’s
Paul Brady continued his mastery over the years by defeating Luis Moreno of the
US. Aisling Reilly won over her Irish
competitor, Fiona Shannon. In Doubles,
Moreno teamed up with Andy Nett of the US to pull out a win over Brady and
Michel Finnegan. In One Wall men’s play,
Tywan Cook prevailed over Yuber Castro, both of the USA. Americans Wally Amaro
and Herman Mendez pulled off a victory over Willie Polanco and Cesar Sala, also
of the US. In Women’s One Wall play
Michelle Melendez took down fellow American Jessica Lopez. Karen McConney and Bernice Torres from the USA teamed up to win in Doubles against Jessica Lopez and Jessica Santiago
also of the USA.
Calgary hosted the 2015 World Handball Champions where 770 players took part. Con Moore Ireland was re-elected as President, Sophie Murphy Puerto Rico was elected Vice President and Mike Driscoll USA was elected Secretary Treasurer. Mike Steele did not seek re-election and we thank him for all his work in handball over the years.
Paul Brady, Ireland won an unprecedented 5th. World Open 4-Wall Singles Title, beating Killian Carroll, Ireland in the final. Ireland's Robert McCarthy and Diarmuid Nash won the World Open 4-Wall Doubles, beating fellow Irish pair Joseph McCann and Rikki O'Gara. Aisling Reilly, Ireland won her second World Open Singles Title, beating Catriona Casey, Ireland in the final while Aisling and Martina McMahon teamed up to beat Catriona Casey and Aisling O'Keeffe in the Women's Open Doubles Final.
In 1-Wall Small Ball, Sean Lenning USA beat Victor LePierre in Singles while Joseph Kaplan and Willie Polanco USA beat Andres Calle and Timothy Gonzales in the World Open Doubles Final.
In 1-Wall Big Ball Timothy Gonzales USA beat Tywan Cook USA in Singles and in the World Open Doubles Final Tywan Cook and Willie Polanco accounted for Andres Calle and Timothy Gonzales USA.
In the Women's 1-Wall Open Final Danielle Daskalakis USA beat Sandy Ng while in Doubles, Danielle and Sandy USA beat Karen McConnery and Lorraine Havern USA/Ireland.